Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good fences . . . .

Okay, people, you all know about the importance of barriers - condoms, dental dams, 3 feet of personal space - but I'm here today to talk about pest barriers.  That's right:  pests.
Mule deer:  lovely to some, pestilence to others.
There are many challenges to gardening here, including low soil fertility, high winds, low temperatures, early and late frosts, and PESTS.  Where I live, pests burrow underground, browse on four long legs, and fly through the air.  They are a gardener's bane in the Methow Valley.  Here are a few simple (not easy), and cheap (not free) pest barriers which I have made use of in my garden.

The first is a fence.  I know, I know, it sounds obvious, right?  However, many people who first get into gardening around here try to get by for a while without one.  (You know who you are.)  This has only led to heartache and grief.  Unless you are really in to planting things and then watching them get destroyed by our four-legged browsers, JUST BUILD A FENCE.  I mean a good one.  Seven feet high with sturdy posts sunk 3 feet into the earth.  Trust me, people.  I know what I'm talking about.
These Jerusalem artichokes grow right along the fence line and the deer keep them "nicely" pruned.
Another useful arrow to have in your deer-proofing quiver is the tree cage.  These can be erected around a single tree or clusters of trees and shrubs.  They are not pretty.  I really wish I didn't have to use them.  However, after suffering depressing losses due to browsing and antler-rubbing (did you know a deer will strip a tree of its bark by rubbing its antlers on it?), I am now resigned to caging some trees.  We make a simple cylinder of  60" wire fencing supported by 4-foot lengths of rebar driven into the ground.  It's best to raise the base of the cage about a foot off the ground to enable weeding and grass clipping. 

A tree cage doing its job around a cluster of young trees and shrubs.
Within the garden fence, I've devised some simple pest barriers as well.  A couple of them protect my berries from snacking birds.  Mylar ribbons hanging from the raspberry wires (I stapled them on), are really bright, and scare birds away.  I'm going to use them next year in my cherry tree as well.
Light-weight wire hoops are stuck in the ground over my strawberry rows.  During berry season, I drape bird netting over the wire and secure it to the ground with "earth staples" or fist-sized stones.  We get to eat all the berries this way.
Baby greens
In early spring and late fall, I use PVC hoops covered with a frost-protective fabric to extend the season in my garden beds.  This year I'm using this same system to protect my "baby" lettuce and spinach from the hordes of grasshoppers.   

In August, it's nearly impossible to start a fall crop of greens, due to both the high temperatures and the munching 'hoppers.  The breathable garden fabric facilitates seed starting in two ways:  by shading the bed somewhat it lowers the soil temperature and decreases the evaporation rate, and it keeps out the insects.

Finally, pocket gophers are native to the Methow Valley.  Laurelle's garden is adjacent to a giant grassy field which hosts a stable population of the rodents.  There's nothing we can do about this.  Gophers will eat the roots of bean plants, and they LOVE garlic, potatoes, and carrots.  I have underlaid some of my beds with small-gauge chicken wire, back-filled with around 8 inches of soil, and plant right over it.  Eventually, I'll probably have most of the garden beds protected from subterranean munchers.
You can just see some chicken wire to the lower right in this photo.


  1. As you may remember, in the house where I grew up there was an open field directly behind us. We had a neighbor who had had enough with the gophers, who have no regard for fences whatsoever. When cursing and shotguns (!) didn't work, he dug up his entire garden and paved his back yard. He then built enormous raised beds for his veg garden... and learned that gophers can walk. Yup, they got into those raised beds and took up right where they left off!

  2. Let down your barriers, Laurelle, let them down.

    Actually, I see this post for exactly what it is: a thinly veiled mocking of the rest of the world for not having awesome critters in their backyards. So transparent, so very transparent.